“I’m bringing crying back” might be a phrase most of us have contemplated tweeting late at night this past year. A forgivable sentiment given the slow burn of defeat from every corner of the news. “Let’s see what chaos visited humanity today while I was on vacation” sings Greg Katz on “Original Composition,” an acceptance, along with a shrug, that the world is seemingly ending that will only resonate a bit too strongly. This track is only a chapter of an unofficial 2020 handbook called Emphatically No., the second full length from Los Angeles garage-rock trio Cheekface.
For their debut EP, Sixteenth Sapphire, Emily Sinclair, Lauren Wittmann, and Jenna Wittmann of Virgo Rising grace our thirsted ears with a sweet collection of graduated bedroom pop. Introspective themes dominate this enchanting combination of gossamery vocals, clean lyrics, and soft instrumentals, which immediately reminded me of Frankie Cosmos, old-style Ian Sweet, and Angel Olsen, minus some of the drama.
Mike Powell, known to Bandcamp as closetjudas, tackles abstract concepts of presence, truth, and a lack of both. In the lo-fi non sequitur, closetjudas blasts fuzzed out guitars through what sounds like the tiniest speakers. The sharp, shrill lead guitar parts peek out from behind the extremeness of the rest of the instrumentation, balancing like a wavering tower, surrounded by clouds of spoken word excerpts.
In the October/November 2020 issue of Stylus, “Winnipeg State of Mind” brought you the Top 100 Winnipeg Rap Songs, part of my attempts to document Winnipeg rap history in my forthcoming book “Gritty City.” In 2021, the focus of “Winnipeg State of Mind” will be to examine the current slate of young, up and coming rappers and artists that populate the landscape of Winnipeg hip-hop. Some of the artists that will be featured are already reaching huge numbers of people, some are just finding their feet artistically. But all of them are talented, driven, and dedicated to making Winnipeg hip-hop the best it can be in 2021 and beyond.
I wasn’t prepared for Ben Varian’s new album One Hundred Breakfasts With The Book. A preliminary listen reveals a downtempo pop album with a range of instrumentals, some pronounced dreamy elements, a nod to early 60’s jazz-pop, and soothing vocals to round out the sound. Upon subsequent listens, and with some cursory investigation, the album becomes much more than that.
Ryan Hockey’s debut EP Again channels everything from an indie piano ballad to space driven sound distortions that evoke a sense of escapism and a dream-like universe. It starts with the melancholic yet increasingly powerful “Again at 4 a.m.,” featuring a galactic backing track that makes the song an absolute ride right from the beginning.
As one half of the electronic-dance duo Prince Innocence, Prince Josh released his debut solo LP The Joy back in March of 2020. Darkness and desolation are intrinsic qualities of this down-tempo House album, but hidden with the moments of despair are glimpses of hope, sanity, and of course, joy.
Yawn Care is the second project released by the Winnipeg-based artist of the same name. The influence of this city is more than apparent throughout the album. It offers all the entrancing wonder that an ambient record should bring, but does so in a surprisingly concise manner.
Julien’s Daughter burst onto the local music scene with unfortunate timing. In the absence of playing local stages, and surely a slew of festival gigs, they took the time to release their debut album The Static That Carries Over. The album captures the effortlessness of their collaboration and the dynamism of their live performances.